Why I Moved to Taiwan

Are you still there?

It’s been some 5 months since I wrote anything and understandably, readers would’ve stopped coming in by now but I’ll just write as I had since the inception of this blog.

Too many things have happened in the last 6 months or so. One of the biggest things that happened was that Dad had passed away from cancer. Last I wrote, Dad was recovering well and back to enjoying karaoke. Unfortunately, during one of his regular check-ups, it was found that cancer had spread to other parts of his body, including his liver, spine, and lungs, the liver being the most infected.

While I was back in Singapore last year and accompanied Dad to treatment, I found that he had been taking painkillers to ease the pain in his back. At that time, the only information I had was that cancer cells were found in his liver. But when I spoke with the doctor, I learned that his spine and lungs were infected too and he wasn’t aware of the tumour in his spine that caused his back to hurt.

After returning to Japan, I kept myself updated with Dad’s condition and at one of his regular check-ups, I heard news that all cancer cells were gone except for a bit in his liver. That was great news.

And here comes the reason I decided to move to Taiwan. The company I had been working at as a freelancer offered me a management role in Taiwan. When I heard this, two factors brought me to the decision to accept the role. Career-wise, I felt that it was a great opportunity for me to learn something new and grow as a person. But the bigger push factor was my family. As Dad’s cancer relapsed less than a year after the initial recovery, I wanted to place greater importance in spending more time with my family. Being in Japan, it was difficult to return to Singapore often due to flight time and the cost of returning. But if I were in Taiwan, I could return to Singapore over the weekends once a month to visit Dad and Mum. And so, I took up the job, which I thought came at a good time.

However, less than a month later in September, the doctor in charge of Dad’s treatment told him to stop treatment and they would admit him to a hospital where there would be nurses to look after him.

When I heard that, I was flustered. I wondered if that meant it was all over for him or if that meant his treatment was complete; if the hospital was in fact a hospice or if it was simply a nursing home since no one was home to take care of Dad usually.

Turned out, it was indeed hospice and I knew it was all over. I was losing Dad.

I bought an air ticket to return home on October 1 in order to see Dad. The night I landed, I immediately went to see Dad at the hospice. He had no strength in his arms and every time he raised them, they would drop hard on the bed as he loses energy to hold them up. His eyes constantly remained closed and he opens them wide when he has something to say. But it was clear his mental faculties were still alert. I fed him some water but he threw up almost immediately. I held his hand lightly and he said it hurts when I touch him even though I simply rested my hand on his. We tried to keep his mind off being in the hospice by asking him some random stuff about his friends and he could answer them without having to give much thought.

The following day was Dad’s birthday. Mum and I bought cake for him and brought it to the hospital after Mum got off work. But Dad clearly wasn’t able to eat and he was visibly weaker. He was no longer audible. We couldn’t make out anything he was trying to say. It sounded like gibberish coming out of his mouth as he lost strength to enunciate. He pointed to his head and said something but all I could hear was “lower,” and so I took the remote to the bed and lowered his head rest. I asked him if it was alright and he didn’t respond, so I assumed it was okay.

Between the first and second day, it was apparent Dad’s condition turned drastically for the worse. So much so that I could tell he couldn’t make it past that week. That night, I decided to spend the whole of the following day by his bed side although I had to work. I had decided to do that every day until the day he bade us goodbye. I had wanted to be the one whom he turns to when he opens his eyes, whether he needs a drink or someone to clean up the puke on himself, or if he needs the nurse to help him with anything, I wanted to be there to help him call for the nurse. I wanted him to feel at ease that I was by his side and he wasn’t alone in the hospital simply staring at the ceiling waiting for death with these other strangers sharing the same ward, and the same eventual fate. I wanted to be with him after having been gone these past 10 years.

I wasn’t sure when the visiting hours were, but I arrived at the hospice at 7am the following day hoping to convince the nurses to let me sit by Dad’s bedside. When I arrived, I asked one of the nurses if I could enter the ward half-expecting some form of rejection. To my surprise, the nurse said yes. I headed in and Dad appeared to be sleeping but breathing heavily. I had thought it was just usual breathing as he grew weaker and so I prepared to settle down next to him when another nurse came in and told me that they will move Dad to a private ward so that we can have some quiet time with him. I was confused.

In my mind, I knew it meant Dad was not going to make it already, but I was in denial. I had hoped it was because they didn’t want me to disturb other patients at 7am in the morning and so decided to move him out. Then, the nurse said, “I’ve called your mum to come over and she’s on her way already.” The only thing that came to my mind was, “Why didn’t God let me spend at least one more full day with him?”

I should’ve, would’ve, could’ve done it but, his 67th birthday was my last chance to spend time with him and I didn’t take it.

Life goes back as usual as the past 10 years had been, but that’s if I don’t think about Dad. It still hurts to know what a tough life he’s led and the opportunity for him to finally take a break didn’t last too long.

I recall when Dad first got diagnosed with nose cancer and was reluctant to go through treatment. The doctor told him if he had it treated, he could live another 10-20 years but if he didn’t, he’ll likely die in five. He went for the treatment and didn’t even make it past two, and the last 1.5 years he was alive was definitely of very very low quality.

Although there’s no guarantee what would’ve happened had Dad not gone through treatment, I sometimes really wonder if he would’ve had his 5 years had he insisted on relying on Chinese medicine instead.

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